Understanding Dating Violence

Dating is exciting – there’s no doubt about it. Dating can also be confusing, no matter how experienced you are. Sometimes it can be hard to recognize a good date or a good relationship versus an unhealthy one. If something doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t.

If your boyfriend, girlfriend or partner ignores your boundaries or hurts you – physically, sexually, emotionally or even online – that’s called dating violence or an abusive relationship, and it’s never OK.

How abusive relationships start: Pushing boundaries, ignoring consent

Many times, dating abuse begins with the would-be abuser testing the partner’s stated boundaries and ignoring their requests to stop. Unwanted teasing, excessive jealousy or possessiveness, and direct harassment are forms of emotional abuse and can set the stage for potential physical violence.

Despite what abusers may say, these boundary-pushing behaviors are not normal, and they are not a sign of love. Restating and enforcing your personal boundaries with a partner is not disrespectful or unloving behavior.

Basic respect and mutual consent form the basis of all healthy relationships, especially with romantic partners.

Types of relationship abuse

An abusive relationship is not just when a partner physically strikes you or threatens you. Here are the different ways abusers harm their partners.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse includes any form of unwanted contact, such as:

  • Punching
  • Scratching
  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Grabbing
  • Strangling or choking

Abusive relationships often worsen over time. Physical violence can become more severe and frequent if left unchecked.

Sexual Abuse and Date Rape

Sexual abuse occurs when abusers force someone into a sexual act that they don’t want to do or are unable to give consent for, such as:

  • Unwanted kissing or touching
  • Any sort of unwanted or nonconsensual sexual activity, including rape
  • Sexual contact of any sort with someone who cannot offer a clear and informed “yes” or “no”
  • Threatening or pressuring someone into unwanted sexual activity

Date rape is when someone is raped by someone they know, like a boyfriend or girlfriend – even on a first date. This type of dating violence occurs when an abuser forces their partner into an unwanted sexual act. Sometimes, an abuser gives their victims odorless and tasteless drugs to make them helpless.

Remember that consent for previous sexual activity does not automatically mean consent is given for future sexual acts. You have the right to say “yes” or “no” every time, no matter how long you’ve been together with your partner.

Where to Find Help

Whether you’re concerned about dating violence for yourself or someone you care about, help is available. If you are mistreated by your partner, don’t be ashamed. It’s not your fault, and you’re not alone. Keep yourself safe while you get help and decide what to do. You can seek help from:

  • Friends
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • School counselors
  • Trusted adults

Remember, if you are the victim of relationship abuse, you are not alone. Help is available.


Source: Military OneSource: www.militaryonesource.mil

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